CoE asks Turkey to stop stigmatization of LGBTI people

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Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatović has called on Turkey in a letter to two ministers to stop the stigmatization of LGBTI people and uphold their freedoms of assembly, association and expression, according to a statement from the CoE on Thursday.

Mijatović, addressing Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu and Justice Minister Abdülhamit Gül in her letter dated June 17 called on them to fulfill the commitments enshrined in the national Action Plan on Human Rights, which was unveiled by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in March but drew little interest due to Turkey’s poor record on human rights.

The commissioner expressed concern that LGBTI communities have been prevented from exercising their right to peaceful assembly due to sweeping restrictions on LGBTI events, including Pride marches, that authorities have enforced over the years.

“I call on the Turkish authorities to uphold the right of LGBTI people to peaceful assembly by lifting the bans on LGBTI events and take all necessary measures to ensure the safety of participants during such events, including Pride marches,” said Mijatović.

Homosexuality is not illegal in Turkey, but homophobia is widespread. After a spectacular Pride March in İstanbul drew 100,000 people in 2014, the government responded by banning future events in the city, citing security concerns.

Mijatović further warned that a series of restrictions on activities of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and freedom of association imposed by the government in recent years in the name of counterterrorism have also negatively impacted on the work of LGBTI organizations. She noted that the use of judicial proceedings to silence human rights defenders, NGOs and lawyers and curtail civil society activism, which she has repeatedly raised in her work on Turkey, continues and that it has increasingly affected those who have stood up for the rights of LGBTI people.

Turkey was ranked 48th among 49 countries as regards the human rights of LGBT people, according to the 2021 Rainbow Europe Map published by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA)-Europe in May.

According to the index, a large number of hate speech incidents and campaigns took place again in Turkey in 2020 against LGBT people, and in some instances the government or public figures blamed LGBT people or gay men for the COVID-19 pandemic and for spreading other illnesses.

In her letter, the commissioner also said she is concerned about the visible rise in hateful rhetoric and the propagation of homophobic narratives by some politicians and opinion-makers in Turkey and about impunity for transphobic hate crimes. “I call on the authorities to reverse these negative trends and ensure effective protection of the human rights of LGBTI people in Turkey,” Mijatović added.

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